If you are a counselor, pastor, student, one-another minister, small group leader, or spiritual friend, you want to know the most helpful books about the personal ministry of the Word—about using God’s Word for helping hurting people. Here, in alphabetical order, are the top 14 books published in 2014 about biblical counseling or important to biblical counselors. I’ve selected these books on the basis of their biblical depth, relevance to life, practicality for one-another ministry, faithfulness to the sufficiency of Scripture, application to progressive sanctification, and by surveying what leaders in the biblical counseling world are saying about them.
The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes, Cruciform Press
In The Company We Keep, Jonathan Holmes develops a four-fold model of Christlike and Christ-honoring friendship, using the 4 “C’s” of constancy, candor, carefulness, and counsel. This model of biblical friendship provides a robust and relevant GPS for intentional and vulnerable gospel-centered friendships. Spiritual friendship is biblical counseling as it was meant to be—in our real and raw daily interactions with one another in the Body of Christ. The Company We Keep is an extremely helpful resource for any individual or group wanting to move from shallow friendship to a vision of friendship offered in Scripture and modeled by Christ. In The Company We Keep we learn that true friendship finds its origin, purpose, and power in Jesus. Our human friendships then must be shaped by this life-changing truth. Biblical friendship is deep, honest, pure, transparent, and liberating. It is also attainable. Dig into this book, and learn how your friendships can embody this amazing and wonderful reality.
Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer, Westminster John Knox Press
In this exhaustive volume, theologian Kevin Vanhoozer introduces readers to a way of thinking about Christian theology that takes the work he began in the groundbreaking 2005 book, The Drama of Doctrine, to its next level. In Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine, Vanhoozer provides an in-depth, comprehensive biblical theology of progressive sanctification. Faith Speaking Understanding answers the question: “What does it look like to build a theology of practical sanctification upon the grand redemptive narrative of the Bible?” And he embeds personal sanctification in corporate sanctification—in the corporate life of the church as we perform life together—as we live out the script outlined in the Scriptures.
Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives by Bob Kellemen, Zondervan
Since I am the author of Gospel-Centered Counseling, I’ll allow other leading biblical counselors and pastors to speak to the relevance of this book. Elyse Fitzpatrick explains, “Bob Kellemen understands grace and the gospel in ways that are profound, beautiful, and astonishing. I love Gospel-Centered Counseling and the gospel that is so beautifully portrayed here where the rubber meets the road, in our daily lives, in our struggle to believe and to live in the light of all Christ has done.” Pastor Jonathan Dodson writes, “Gospel-Centered Counseling is an immense help to both counselors and counselees. Bob frames every counseling issue within the drama of redemption and in the hope of the gospel. The result? A book that belongs on every pastor’s shelf. I felt loved and understood by Bob, the sign of a good counselor. It is deep, broad, compassionate, and most of all, it is true—imparting the hope of Christ into the heart of people—‘Behold, I am making all things new!’” Gospel-Centered Counseling builds on the foundation of the written Word and provides a gospel-centered resource for understanding people, diagnosing problems, and prescribing biblically-based solutions. It applies to our lives and ministries the classic doctrines of systematic theology by addressing them in the form of eight ultimate life questions that every person asks and every biblical counselor must answer.
Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps, and Bad Advice by Elyse Fitzpatrick, Tyndale House
In Good News for Weary Women, Elyse Fitzpatrick builds the case that the gospel has been forgotten when it comes to how and where women are getting their advice for how to live and please God. She accounts for this from the pressures from the media, things we watch and read, and even from the church. These pressures have led women to have a warped view of “success” as if “success were a Christian construct or our sanctification depended on anyone other than Christ” (p. xvii). Every concept in every chapter points us to the gospel as the answer to a woman’s weariness—and Christ as the Person in whom women (and men) find rest.
If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed? by Robert B. Somerville, Xulon Press
Some people say that Christians should never be depressed. Biblical counselor Bob Somerville takes issue with that. Bob writes from the Scripture and out of his own soul in If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed? With courageous candor and aching honesty, Bob explains that the gospel does not exclude the committed Christian from stumbling into the miry pit of dark emotions. However, he further demonstrates that God’s Word contains wise guidance and heart-transforming hope even while we face the pit of despair. If you’re struggling with depression or walking alongside someone who is, then Bob’s words, saturated by a rich understanding of God’s Word, will greatly encourage you and equip you.
New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp, Crossway
Mornings can be tough. Sometimes, a hearty breakfast and strong cup of coffee just aren’t enough. Offering more than a rush of caffeine, best-selling author Paul David Tripp wants to energize you with the most potent encouragement imaginable: the gospel. Forget “behavior modification” or feel-good aphorisms. Tripp knows that what we really need is an encounter with the living God. Then we’ll be prepared to trust in God’s goodness, rely on His grace, and live for His glory each and every day. In the words of Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “Each morning for years, Paul Tripp has served fresh-brewed wisdom and encouragement through his pithy, thought-provoking tweets, reminding us again and again of the all-sufficiency of Christ and His grace. New Morning Mercies offers more of the same (without the limitation of 140 characters)! These devotional readings will strengthen, nourish, and recalibrate your heart, and open your eyes to behold God’s fresh mercies at the dawn of each new day.”
On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse by Deepak Reju, New Growth Press
On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse needs to be in the hands of every pastor and ministry leader in every church. This candid, compassionate, and comprehensive manual provides exactly what the church desperately needs to protect children and to protect the reputation of Christ and the Bride of Christ. Replete with biblical wisdom principles and practical real-life policies and procedures, On Guard equips the church to take the lead in proactively protecting the most precious and vulnerable among us. It offers churches eight strategies for preventing child abuse and three for responding to it, helping to move church staff and leaders beyond fearful awareness to prayerful preparedness.
Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-Making Modeled by the Apostle Paul by Mark Shaw and Bill Hines, Focus Publishing
We can look to many biblical sources to develop an approach to biblical counseling. Paul the Counselor looks to the apostle Paul as an authoritative and relevant model for our one-another ministry today. Paul had a passion to help Christians grow spiritually and apply biblical principles to the everyday challenges they encountered and that we face today. In this sense, Paul taught the same lessons that biblical counselors teach today. We are all called to counsel and disciple one another dependent upon Christ’s gospel of grace contained in Christ’s all-sufficient Word of life. In this multi-authored volume, leading biblical counselors explore Paul’s ministry to discuss topics such as Paul’s model of change, Paul’s lessons on temptation, renewing the mind, women in ministry, leaving the past behind, and much more.
Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn’t Line Up by Amy Baker, New Growth Press
Perfectionism is a crushing burden that can leave us angry, anxious, and paralyzed. But the quest for perfection will never transform a heart. In Picture Perfect,Amy Baker examines the root and purpose of the longing for perfection to show how God’s grace transforms the aching not enough of perfectionism into the overflowing abundance of faith. Pastor and biblical counselor, Brad Bigney, recommends Picture Perfect with these words: “I’ve been a pastor and counselor for over twenty-five years now and this is a book I’ll be handing out! Christians sing about amazing grace, but too often still live by the law of their own hard work and perfectionistic striving. Amy’s done a great job tackling an issue that flies right in the face of the Gospel and God’s grace, but seldom gets addressed head-on or with the insights that Amy brings to this subject. This book brings you back to the only perfect person our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Prone to Wander: Prayers of Confession and Celebration by Barbara R. Dugiud and Wayne D. Houk, P&R Publishing
Inspired by the Puritan classic The Valley of Vision, Barbara Duguid and Wayne Houk craft prayers developed for both personal devotions and church use. Confessing our sins might seem like a gloomy business—God already knows about them, so what’s the point of dwelling on failure? But confession is more celebratory than we think. It does not simply remind us of our guilt, but points us to our great Savior, who has atoned for us and lovingly pursues us despite our wandering. These prayers in Prone to Wander open with a scriptural call of confession, confess specific sins, thank the Father for Jesus’ perfect life and death in our place, ask for the help of the Spirit in pursuing holiness, and close with an assurance of pardon.
Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How People Change by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer, B&H Books
Recovering Redemption, written with a pastor’s bold intensity and a counselor’s discerning insight, takes you deeply into Scripture to take you deeply inside yourself, discovering that the heart of all our problems is truly the problem of our hearts. But because of what God has done, and because of what God can do, the most confident, contented person you know could actually be you—redeemed through Jesus Christ. This is a book, like Gospel-Centered Counseling, that changes our thinking from “how people change” to “how Christ changes people.”
Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry by Barbara Bancroft, New Growth Press
We tend to write and read many books about men in ministry, but far too few like Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry. Of Barbara Bancroft’s book, Scotty and Darlene Smith write, “Running on Empty is simply the best book Darlene and I have ever read on the raptures and ruptures of vocational ministry, and the radical implications of God’s grace for wives and women who are seeking to serve Jesus.” Positive without being cliché, Running on Empty presents the realities of vocational ministry with humor and hope. Barbara draws from her experience as a missionary woman and pastor’s wife to demonstrate how the gospel must be our message to ourselves as well as others.
Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World by Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey, Zondervan
Scripture and Counseling is the second multi-authored book produced by the Biblical Counseling Coalition (the first being Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling). Given that I was one of the editors and co-authors, once again I’ll allow others to introduce you to this book. Of it, Pastor J.D. Greear writes, “Scripture and Counseling is both theologically robust and pastorally helpful. On its pages you will find a lively discussion that will bring you up to speed on the conversation taking place among contemporary biblical counselors.” John Street writes, “Because we live in a culture that considers the Bible to be at best irrelevant, or even ridiculous, there has been a growing question even among serious Christians as to its sufficiency, especially for counseling the serious problems of the soul. Scripture and Counseling provides the framework for a profitable discussion of this issue and helps us appreciate the richness of God’s Word in helping people who are hurting.”
Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel During Alzheimer’s Disease by Benjamin Mast, Zondervan
Through the personal stories of those affected and the loved ones who care for them, Dr. Benjamin Mast highlights the power of the gospel for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Filled with helpful, up-to-date information, Dr. Mast answers common questions about the disease and its effect on personal identity and faith as he explores the biblical importance of remembering and God’s commitment to not forget His people. In addition, he gives practical suggestions for how the church can come alongside families and those struggling, offering help and hope to victims of this debilitating disease. Dr. Daniel Akin writes of Second Forgetting, “My mother, one of the godliest people to ever walk on this earth, died from Alzheimer’s. The debilitating effects of this disease were almost more than we could bear. A book like this would have been worth its weight in gold! I cannot commend highly enough what a gift it will be to families everywhere.”
Join the Conversation
Of the books highlighted above, which ones impacted your life and ministry the most? How and why?
What additional books, published in 2014, about biblical counseling or important for biblical counselors, would you recommend?
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